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The Un-Internet and War On General Purpose Computers 266

Posted by timothy
from the insert-coin-to-continue dept.
theodp writes "Apple,' writes Dave Winer in The Un-Internet, 'is providing a bad example for younger, smaller companies like Twitter and Tumblr, who apparently want to control the 'user experience' of their platforms in much the same way as Apple does. They feel they have a better sense of quality than the randomness of a free market. So they've installed similar controls.' Still, Winer's seen this movie before and notes, 'Eventually we overcome their barriers, and another layer comes on. And the upstarts become the installed-base, and they make the same mistakes all over again. It's the Internet vs the Un-Internet. And the Internet, it seems, always prevails.' Thinking along the same lines, Cory Doctorow warns the stakes are only going to get higher, and issues a call-to-arms for The Coming War on General Purpose Computation."
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The Un-Internet and War On General Purpose Computers

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  • by cultiv8 (1660093) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:33PM (#38557672) Homepage
    Like 2 days ago? [slashdot.org] Unless you're in Samoa and Tokelau [slashdot.org], then it was yesterday.
  • Free market? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:33PM (#38557678) Homepage
    In a true free market there would be more closed solutions too and the one most people want will win. I'm not sure why he's upset that most people are actually computer illiterate and want something that can be easily controlled rather than the ultimate swiss army knife of computers. Open computers won't go away and there is no need to get upset because most people don't care for that.
    • Re:Free market? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:46PM (#38557756)

      I'm not sure why he's upset that most people are actually computer illiterate

      Its like being upset that most people are "illiterate illiterate" or innumerate. How can we stay on top, without people to look down upon?

      Of all the conditions of humanity to champion, I don't think ignorance lacks for help, you can probably stand down.

      • Re:Free market? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by n5vb (587569) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @03:11PM (#38557906)

        Its like being upset that most people are "illiterate illiterate" or innumerate. How can we stay on top, without people to look down upon?

        Of all the conditions of humanity to champion, I don't think ignorance lacks for help, you can probably stand down.

        I see it less from a personal-self perspective than as a factor in the overall evolution of the society. A significant enough majority of ignorance, illiteracy (tech or otherwise), innumeracy, etc. can by itself dominate mainstream culture in ways that at the very least throw sand in the gears, and the kind of culture that grows out of that always has the potential to at least be suspicious of people who have unsanctioned knowledge, and possibly much worse. I don't see an ignorant society as something I can differentiate myself from as an outlier, I consider it a sleeping monster that might someday wake up and line people like me up against the wall. It's happened before and I don't think for a moment that it can't happen again.

        • Re:Free market? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by JayWilmont (1035066) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:32PM (#38558444)

          Most of america is also car-illiterate, financially-illiterate, woodworking-illiterate, sewing-illiterate, hunting-illiterate, gardening-illiterate and cooking-illiterate.

          I don't think we should ever celebrate ignorance, but there is a big difference between this and acknowledging that people only have so much time/energy/capacity to learn about how the world works and would rather spend their time living their lives.

          Basic gardening is also super-easy and is beneficial both financially and health-wise, but most people don't bother with it, the same way most people don't bother spending time understanding their computer.

          As we look at how to improve our society, I think concerns about cooking/food-illiteracy and financial-illiteracy are far more pressing than bemoaning that people don't bother to learn how to navigate a directory structure. It is better to discuss making "open" computing simple, easy and relevant rather than berating people for wanting to get on with their lives.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Lord Kano (13027)

            Most of america is also car-illiterate, financially-illiterate, woodworking-illiterate, sewing-illiterate, hunting-illiterate, gardening-illiterate and cooking-illiterate.

            And those people who refuse to learn anything about the world that they live in will always be a bane on the existence of those of us who do.

            I may not know the compression ratio of the engine in my truck, but I can change my own oil and flat tires.

            I walked out of a bank VP's office once over a .3% discrepancy in an interest rate. That wouldn't have had to happen if not for the dumb asses who go ahead and get loans without paying attention to the fine print.

            I can't build my own table and chairs, well not of

          • Most of america is also car-illiterate, financially-illiterate, woodworking-illiterate, sewing-illiterate, hunting-illiterate, gardening-illiterate and cooking-illiterate.

            At one time, this was not the case. There used to be at least one person in each household who could sew, and thus repair clothing. There used to be at least one person in each household who could cook, and thus allow the family to eat a hot mean.

            The difference with computers is that people have been conditioned by the media, from the very beginning of the computer age, to believe that computers are incomprehensible. Rather than encourage a culture where at least one person in each household is comp

    • by decora (1710862) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @03:03PM (#38557856) Journal

      because after all most people preferred the simplicity of macintosh.

      that is why after about 1986, the x86 and IBM PC died... as did linux.

      • by unimacs (597299) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @03:49PM (#38558126)
        If it were strictly a matter of user preference back in the mid to late 80's, the Mac may indeed have been the one to dominate, but at work most people had little choice but to use the computer that was given to them. They typically chose to get the same computers for their home for reasons of compatibility, price, and availability of software.

        But lets look a little deeper. How did that end up working out for IBM? How many PCs has IBM sold lately? What new and exciting product have they come out with in the last couple of decades?

        Apple is still selling the Mac and still innovating. PCs are basically a commodity. When Apple did license the Mac OS, it nearly wiped them out. They didn't have other lines of business to fall back on like IBM did when the clone manufactures started eating their lunch on price.

        Besides, dominating the marketplace isn't the only definition of success. I'd also argue that there's plenty of room for both open and closed systems. I'd prefer to live in a world with both. While the general purpose PC may be fading somewhat in importance, I think that's just simply part of the natural progression of technology.

        The Internet may be the new general purpose PC. Lots of cloud based services include APIs that you can leverage. IOS is only one platform. Android is another. So is the Internet. I don't think the latter is threatened by the existence of IOS in any way. In fact, I'd argue that its existence has promoted the Internet as a platform.
        • by pla (258480) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:13PM (#38558308) Journal
          What new and exciting product have they come out with in the last couple of decades?

          You might have heard of a collection of toy apps called "WebSphere"? Really nothing, but the transaction processing industry with their crazy ol' uptime and throughput demands seems fond of it. ;)

          IBM has indeed moved out of the PC market for the most part, but they remain as strong as ever in the ways of Big Iron.
        • by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:38PM (#38558482)

          But lets look a little deeper. How did that end up working out for IBM? How many PCs has IBM sold lately?

          You say that as though it's a bad thing. That's how we want it to work: If you invent something once and thereafter decide you want to rest on your laurels forever, the market is supposed to eat your lunch. We want a market where companies have to continually innovate or they get kicked to the curb. This idea that inventing something once should give you an inalienable right to a permanent revenue stream is a disease.

          More than that, it's a disease that kills the host first. Companies want control, obviously. Customers and developers also want control. If a company like Apple decides they want to control everything, they get a larger slice of a smaller pie. That can work out well in the short term in some cases, but eventually someone comes around who provides a product which is of a similar quality but which allows users and other third parties to have more of that control, which causes more people to use it. The market share of the more free product increases faster than that of the less free product, because all else equal who wouldn't want more control for themselves and less for someone else? The walled garden is a false dichotomy because you can have optional curation without mandatory curation, and the first company to get the former right will eat the latter's lunch in exactly the same way and for the same reasons that the open web defeated AOL.

          • The walled garden is a false dichotomy because you can have optional curation without mandatory curation, and the first company to get the former right will eat the latter's lunch

            The gaming PC has optional curation (Steam, Impulse, GOG), yet consoles with their mandatory curation are soundly beating gaming PCs in several gaming genres, especially those that involve connecting multiple gamepads and one large monitor for local multiplayer. How should gaming PCs get optional curation right when most PC owners can't even be bothered to set up the large monitor?

        • "It is used to describe a class of goods for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market.[3] A commodity has full or partial fungibility; that is, the market treats it as equivalent or nearly so no matter who produces it. "

          i.e., the IBM PC 'platform' whipped everyones ass, and so did x86... funny thing... what CPU does Apple run on btw?

      • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @05:49PM (#38558928) Homepage
        The IBM PC has effectively died. IBM doesn't make PCs. Windows based PCs are certainly still around and of course Windows still dominates because it has decades of software people are reliant on. That is why Linux and Macs struggle to take gain market share.

        But if Windows was the superior product then MS shouldn't be struggling in every other consumer market. Their phone OS is pretty much a failure, they're a non-starter on tablets, zune is dead and their "big" success is the 360 which was blown away by inferior hardware (the Wii) and is only a few million ahead of the PS3 despite the 1 year lead, the price advantage, the fact most every game can be bought on both systems, despite the PS3 hackings, etc.

        What I see is consumers use windows where they have to use it. Where they don't need to due to lack of legacy software they are going to either Android, Apple or anyone else.

        Part of that success they built up on the desktop didn't come from natural consumer choice. It had a lot of help from underhanded tactics from Microsoft. I think the fact the Mac and Linux survived that is a testament to how much better their products are.

        Non-technical people did not pick wintel machines because they were easier and better. They just happened to have the software people want which has nothing to do with the openness of the hardware which actually isn't any more open than a Mac. Linux is installable on Macs and has been for some time even with PPC variants.

        That is my point. Most consumers simply do not care about hacking software or hardware. Just as most consumers don't want to tear apart their cars or mod them and what is wrong with that? It won't stop geeks from having what they want. Linux can't go away if Apple gains a 90% market share. It didn't go away despite Windows' huge market share even with MS actively bullying OEMs into only installing windows. You let people pick what they want and if more people want something they perceive as being safer and easier rather than what you pick then how does that hurt you?
    • Re:Free market? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bob9113 (14996) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:41PM (#38558498) Homepage

      In a true free market there would be more closed solutions too and the one most people want will win

      In a true free market, Apple would not enjoy so many government enforced barriers to entry in the form of license agreements, patents, and copyright.

      • You make it out like Apple is the only one with patents, copyrights and licence agreements. If that were the case you might have a point but they all play by the same rules.
        • Re:Free market? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Bob9113 (14996) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @05:46PM (#38558902) Homepage

          You make it out like Apple is the only one with patents, copyrights and licence agreements.

          I do not. I make it out like patents, copyrights, and license agreements are indicative of a market which is not free in the libertarian sense used in the OP.

          If that were the case you might have a point but they all play by the same rules.

          They all play by the same set of rules that favors the incumbent with the most lawyers and power to develop exclusive relationships. That is a market which is not free due to barriers to entry.

          I'm not even saying it is bad. I would not say such a thing, because I think some of the barriers from which Apple benefits can be healthy components of a non-free market economy.

          I'm just saying it is not rational to use the free market card to defend Apple. If we snapped our fingers and had a true free market today, Apple would become a much smaller company very quickly. If you ended copyright, Apple's iTunes Music Store revenue would be cut by more than 90%, for example. That alone might be more than they could adapt to before going out of business.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Apple's iTunes Music Store revenue would be cut by more than 90%, for example. That alone might be more than they could adapt to before going out of business.

            The rest of your comment I can agree with. But this? You have to be kidding. Apple wouldn't even blink if they lost the revenue from the iTunes Music Store today. On the contrary; if they were able to just give away all those songs, they would be *happy*. Because people could spend even more money on hardware, which is what Apple sells.

    • But they will be damned hard to find, and will be lots of legal hoops to jump thru to get one, legally.

    • Re:Free market? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @05:52PM (#38558950)

      Open computers won't go away

      What makes you so sure of that?

      We've already got tens of thousands of software patents in the hand of large corporations, EULAs that essentially substitute buying for leasing/renting software, Cloud services rapidly replace existing freer and more distributed solutions (Usenet, email, etc.), and a more oppressive copyright law passes every few years ( DMCA, SOPA, what will be next?). What if GNU/Linux distributors and FOSS developers are starting to get sued successfully? What if they don't have large enough patent portfolios to defend themselves? Fast-forward twenty years and general purpose computer programming or even just owning a general purpose computer could be prohibited. You think that's impossible? Who will prevent it? The Government?

      Besides, the less general purpose computers are used, the more they will cost, so even if they don't go away anybody who likes these machines has reasons to be concerned.

  • Really? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Oh for God's sake... Name one thing Apple prevents you from doing on OS X. Not a feature they left out, not a Windows app you like that isn't available, not a hack to customize Windows that isn't also present on Macs, but something that Apple EXPLICITLY PREVENTS YOU OR ANYONE FROM DOING.

    • The author may have meant iOS, not OS X.

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @03:16PM (#38557942)

        He probably did BUT

        I actually don't mind the approach that Apple took with the iPhone and then the iPad.
        No Flash! What a great idea.
        So it is a walled garden. Well for some things I want to be sure that what I do is safe.
        I had an iPhone 3gs and then a 4. Now I have a HTC Sensation.
        Frankly, IMHO when compared to the iPhone 4, the HTC is a POS. If you view some of the forums, there are a number of well known issues with the device. Issues that HTC seemingly have no interest in fixing.

        WIth the recent scares about printers being a security risk, it is obvious that there are people determined to exploit any opportunity to exploit the kit we use. I have to wonder how long it will be before some exploit is found in old versions of Android. Versions that the manufacturers will not fix in a year of Sundays. Exactly how is the openness of Android protecting me then? don't say 'You can root it and load some unapproved software'. How many of the phone using public could do that then? They won't. That will leave them using devices that could be part of the biggest botnet the world has seen (to use one possibility). What use is Android being open then? Naf all IMHO.

        So in reality, it is not so open and shut as some may think.

        • I had the good luck of going Android first, and I heartily recommend that to everyone.

          Now I bought myself an iPhone 4S, and the freedom of just downloading apps as opposed to doing rigorous background research is quite liberating. Some sense is still a good thing, though, since not even Apple's perfect. And I get all the latest updates, without having to flash Cyanogenmod.

        • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Waccoon (1186667) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @09:34PM (#38560292)

          No Flash! What a great idea.

          Not to me, and given how popular it became and how badly the competition failed to dethrone it, apparently much of the world doesn't agree with you, either. There really is no other platform for making decent multimedia, except arguably Java. Apple hates both, BTW, just as they hate all virtual machines, like emulators.

          I've always watched Flash cartoons and wanted to write oekaki software (an online paint program) instead of playing games or watching ads. Without Flash and Java, and HTML5 being something of a bad joke, there really aren't many options.

          But then, I suppose this is the fault of the world for not making an alternative to Flash, and not Flash itself. If there were 3 multimedia platforms like Flash competing for market share, and all three had a few security issues, and Apple banned all 3 of them, would you be as happy?

          I find it a bit odd that some of the people who support openness, most notably the Linux community, have been gushing over Apple and their tendency to outright ban things the company doesn't like. Don't like what you say but support your right to say it, blah blah blah.

          So it is a walled garden. Well for some things I want to be sure that what I do is safe.

          Then by default it should be disabled or not installed. Most people will use the defaults. By default, a sandbox and virtual filesystem should be in place, and the browser could simply not share cookies and other user data with plugins. There are plenty of ways to go about this other than, "Thou shall not use software except that written by us."

          Sounds to me that you're less upset about Flash being available on your device, and more upset over the fact that many web sites still use it. Wishing for 3rd-party apps to be banned on mobile devices isn't exactly a solution.

          Exactly how is the openness of Android protecting me then?

          How exactly is the closed nature of iOS protecting you more? Do you trust Apple more than any other company to fix security flaws on day 1, given their penchant for secrecy? Why? Is this based on the company's reputation for fixing problems or the closed and limited nature of the code? Is Apple really more likely than anyone else to fix a security flaw in a 3-year-old product?

          I think you're confusing openness with reputation. Just because 90% of everything is crud doesn't mean only 1% is good.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Funny)

      by mrclisdue (1321513) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:52PM (#38557786)

      Oh for God's sake... but something that Apple EXPLICITLY PREVENTS YOU OR ANYONE FROM DOING.

      Selling a tablet with rounded corners?

    • by sosume (680416)

      use an emulator? on iOS that is

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

      by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @03:21PM (#38557972) Journal

      Name one thing Apple prevents you from doing on OS X [...] something that Apple EXPLICITLY PREVENTS YOU OR ANYONE FROM DOING.

      Run a terminal server. [afp548.com]

    • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Reeses (5069) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @03:27PM (#38558002)

      One thing?

      Hook a debugger/stack trace software up to iTunes to see what's going on.

    • something that Apple EXPLICITLY PREVENTS YOU OR ANYONE FROM DOING

      Installing OSX on non-Apple hardware.

      Last time I checked, Microsoft doesn't care if you install Windows on a Mac, and Dell doesn't care if you install Linux on one of their PCs.

      (Yeah, yeah, blah blah blah technically they can't 'prevent' it but its prohibited...)

    • by Xeranar (2029624)

      Apple doesn't sell OS X to everybody and therefor curtails their 3rd party app production. It's not that apple is the police securing their borders, they're the homeowners association stopping people of color from moving into the neighborhood. It's a matter that Apple holds the cards and doesn't offer major access. You don't have to accept that argument but it is why Apple is not as popular and will remain 2nd to Windows/Linux. Not everybody wants to live in your redlined suburb no matter how pretty it

  • Deal with it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by toriver (11308) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:47PM (#38557764)

    ... by competing. If you feel that closed platforms are wrong, provide open platforms.

    Complaining about other people that choose a different business model that you would have is just being a donkey. Put your moolah where your food-hole is and run your business model for real.

    • Re:Deal with it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @03:11PM (#38557904)

      Try it. Try jumping into any market dominated by a/some big player(s). You'll be immediately sued into oblivion, and consumed by the dominant faction(s). It's a crappy time to be an entrepreneur motivated by wealth; the traditional paths to riches just don't exist any more. The only real path to an open market is to release the "product" for free and count on patronage to support it. So, in this article's context, the ability the make one's own hardware using commonly available materials and machinery. Yes, it's not going to pay as well as traditional methods have. No, there is no certainty you are going to recoup your investment. But, you are not going to be allowed into that market (unless you comply with market niche's Overlords) any way; if you try and play by the traditional market rules, the dominant player(s) will ensure you fail. It seems clear that using the traditional market for personal gain is not the most effective choice for a startup any more.

    • Re:Deal with it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @03:15PM (#38557940) Homepage Journal

      Or we could simply regulate openness. Worked pretty well with cell phone number portability, something the "market" would have never allowed on its own.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:53PM (#38557794)

    Digital Millenium Copyright Act
    Security Systems Standards and Certification Act
    SOPA
    The locked bootloader
    "Approved" software

    All this will end your freedoms, what are you doing to fight it?

    I'm not happy with the way I see the industry going

    You do realise those great minds in congress, largely funded and heavily lobbied by the MAFIAA attempted to make it legally mandatory, for your computer to not be a computer, they tried to legally mandate approved security and digital restrictions management systems in ALL electronic systems, personal computers and devices designed for your use. This would make your PC closed like an apple iPad where only the DRM compliant software could legally run, locked bootloaders would be everywhere, and it would be a crime (DMCA) to circumvent it

    This would have made alot of problems for Linux too, thankfully the GPL v3 has *some* protections against DRM schemes that take away your freedoms

    The interests of big business and distributors like the RIAA/MPAA are not very well aligned with the interests of end users, and they are more than happy to ride roughshod over your end user freedoms in order to gain all the control over the market for themselves and the profits that follow

    I think we should be doing more to protect our freedoms

    • lot's of big business have in house apps or old software so any kind of super locked down systems will not work or will take a long time to roll out.

      • by AJWM (19027)

        Sure, and they'd be, well maybe not happy, but willing to jump through the licensing hoops to allow such to run on those locked-down systems, or to purchase unlocked hardware.

        Options that might not be available (or be prohibitively expensive, or require an inordinate amount of paperwork) to Joe Public.

        IOW, never rely on big business to defend your freedoms for you. It turns out that businesses have freedoms that individuals don't.

  • I gave it a view a few days ago (don't worry at the seeming length - half of it is Q&A), and found it thought provoking. While it's more a statement of what is and soon will be, with less on action items, the general themes will resonate here on /., I think.

    Lot of interesting talks at CCC this year, more broadly: do dig through their list on youtube - lots of neat stuff in there. This [youtube.com] talk on timing attacks on websites was pretty darned neat (starts mild, ramps up to "cool!").
  • I guess I'm not understanding how using a "controlled" platform hinders me.

    • "It lets me do what I want to do, at this very moment."

      People never change. You should be just fine.

    • by Osgeld (1900440) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @03:31PM (#38558024)

      well may I share an apple story? I own a powermac 9600/300, terribly expensive computer for its time (over 7 grand new) one day apple came out with a new operating system called OS9 and its not the worst OS apple has ever released it quickly became surpassed by OS9.2

      OS9.0x was about as useful as system 7, if you wanted anything new it was 9.2 or nothing ... Video drivers for your new card, 9.2? New game 9.2, new compression utility 9.2, but my 9600 was unable to run OS9.2 ...

      You know what made a 7 grand workstation into a dinosaur? Apple's control, they swapped 2 bytes in the installer so that machines with a older rom would fail the system check

      Naturally apple suggested I toss this perfectly good machine in the dumpster and buy a whole new and improved model (which had darn near identical specs), Their control was nothing about the user experience (it still runs a patched version of 9.22 and OSX just fine, and fairly snappy) it was all about selling me a new machine whenever THEY thought I should have one.

      • Ahhh, planned obsolescence.

        You know, Apple isn't the only one that does this. Microsoft spent quite a while building up their Windows CE/Mobile ecosystem, and while it certainly wasn't the greatest, a lot of people had the WinMo phones. There was a lot of compatibility between them too, so if you upgraded you could bring your apps with you. You could have spent $500 for a huge HTC HD2 in mid 2010 and you would have been happy for a few months. Then Windows Phone 7 comes out, it's completely different, a

        • by gmhowell (26755)

          No, not planned obsolescence. OP bought a Umax (or was it one of the others) Mac clone. Apple got a pittance from his purchase, and he expects support from them in perpetuity.

      • by gmhowell (26755)

        You bought a competitor's product. They changed business models (reverted, actually). Why should they continue to care about someone from whom they got pissall money from?

    • by bky1701 (979071)
      Is that an argument for controlled platforms, or against yourself?
  • Right now the only way to find sites on the internet is to use Google or one of its competitors. But they are all based on advertising revenue. So it often makes it brutal to find anything in the usually returned storm of bullshit ads that isn't trying to sell you something when you do an online search. The only choice you have to get away from this are a few well known havens where search terms aren't geared on sales, and in fact spam and unwanted advertising get you kicked. Like on Facebook, Twitter, Wiki

    • by sessamoid (165542)
      I find myself going to Wikipedia for my initial searches for general information more and more often, and Google less so as time goes on for specifically the reasons you cited here.
      • by Thing 1 (178996)
        I haven't gotten to that point yet, because of the extra steps involved. I just go to the address bar (generally after a Ctrl+T, meaning no additional step; using Google Chrome) and type "wiki something" where 'something' is what I was interested in, and the first link is to Wikipedia and I click it. That's the pattern >99% of the time.
    • by Arker (91948)
      I'm not sure how long ago google quit respecting booleans but it's been a long time now, and it sucks. You cant even get it to sort by date without first limiting the date range, and the mangling of characters is nasty. Maybe they need a competitor?
  • by Y-Crate (540566) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:08PM (#38558282)

    Most end users are concerned with the user experience, and little else.

    This doesn't negate the legitimacy of the Free Software Movement. It doesn't mean that it shouldn't be championed and taken as far as it can. What it does mean is that the vast majority of people just want shit that works right out of the box. Free Software has yet to provide an experience many find superior to things like iOS, so iOS continues to gobble-up marketshare while people write articles about how awful it is that it's happening.

    What most users want is this: Open box. Turn on computer. Search for the app they want. Hit "Install". Use app. That's it. Get shit done, and do other shit when the desire strikes.

    People who don't understand this often adopt a condescending tone and claim iPhone / iPad users are just dumb sheep who buy into PR, etc. And that if users only opened their eyes and realized how they're being controlled...

    But that's not going to win any converts. People want to do shit with as few hassles as possible. Years of "Grrr. If you want X, Y or Z, code it yourself!" have reenforced ideology and alienated users, while companies like Apple have been making and releasing products. And that's really the difference in the end. Dogmatic essays and arguing over the minutiae of license revisions vs. shipping products that do things people want in a manner in which they find appealing. The latter always wins.

    Most end users don't give a damn about ideology, licenses or figureheads spouting the latest opinions on how things should or should not be.

    They want: "Here is a new device. This is what it does. If you like it, buy it. Come back in 12 months and we will have an updated version."

    They like that discovering and installing software is now about as easy as you could possibly hope to make it.

    They like that they can download an application once, delete it, and reinstall it for free whenever they want, as many times as they want, on all of their devices. Simultaneously.

    They like that their devices automatically backup their applications and user data while they're walking down the street.

    They like that they can go into a store, buy a new device, enter their email and password, and have all of their applications and settings just appear within moments.

    You can bemoan the licenses and lack of tinker-ability in each piece of hardware and software. You can talk about walled gardens and developer fees. Remind us how annoyingly arbitrary the application approval process is.

    And I will probably agree with you.

    But the fact remains, people want a user experience, not a license. Not an ideology or a movement.

    Firefox took Internet Explorer's market share because Internet Explorer sucked, and Firefox was great. And you could point-out why it was great in ways that someone who didn't know what a compiler or license was could say "Wow, this is great!" And most of all, even if you didn't tell them, even if they had never heard of Firefox or the GPL, you could see people start using it and not stop using it. Because it was better. At the end of the day, clicking "Firefox" instead of "Internet Explorer" made things happen faster, with fewer problems. People liked that.

    It was a triumph of free software. Lower case. The Free Software movement won a victory, but at the end of the day you have to write your code and release your applications and hardware with the assumption that no one will know, or care what the Big Ideas are behind the project. Anything you want to get across to the user must come out in the time spent interacting with a program. Kinda-sorta functional, pre-Beta / endless Beta software excused with a "But it's free and makes the world a better place because..." won't cut it.

    If you want to fight the likes of iOS and win, look at what's appealing about the experience and improve on it. Don't you dare tell people they don't want what they're currently enjoying. Offer them a better alternative. Cut the condescension and smug sense of supe

    • One of the rare posts that really hits the nail on the head with all of the points made. Very well done.
    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:59PM (#38558630) Homepage Journal

      What most users want is this: Open box. Turn on computer. Search for the app they want. Hit "Install". Use app. That's it. Get shit done, and do other shit when the desire strikes.

      Yeah, as long as the app they want exists.

      The Next Big Thing -- the next game-changer comparable to, say, HTTP and HTML -- won't come from Apple, or IBM, or Microsoft, or even Google. It will come from a university researcher who invents a tool to solve a specific problem and then realizes the tool has general applicablity, or from a programmer at a startup who can convince his boss to let him take a chance on something genuinely different from anything their competitors are doing, or from a teenager playing around in his parents' basement. And so will the Big Thing After That, and the Big Thing After That --

      -- if, that is, they have the tools to do it with. If they're not locked in to a world where general-purpose computers are no longer general-purpose enough to allow such things to happen. If they're not prohibited by law from releasing their work to the public because it doesn't have the Holy Seal Of Big Corporate Intellectual Property.

      The "I just want an app that does X" crowd make up the vast majority of computer users and probably always will, and that's fine. But they have to understand where those apps come from.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      What most users want is this: Open box. Turn on computer. Search for the app they want. Hit "Install". Use app. That's it. Get shit done, and do other shit when the desire strikes.

      People who don't understand this often adopt a condescending tone and claim iPhone / iPad users are just dumb sheep who buy into PR, etc. And that if users only opened their eyes and realized how they're being controlled...

      Oh, no, we understand that just fine. That's WHY we call them sheep. Because they don't want to think.

  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:08PM (#38558286)
    They have to dumb down both of them to control them both. Good for the vendor, but the society?

    Me, I don't think a society which manages to make their citizens an interchangeable commodity with a well-defined but artificially limited set of skills that match a narrow range of "appliances" is going to be "cutting-edge" in anything; rather, as a monoculture they - and their "appliances" - will be sitting ducks for the electronic version of Phytophthora infestans just as Ireland - and the potato - were in 1845.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm on the iPad and Slashdot is giving me this semi- mobile version. Half of the web these days hates mobile devices and I don't know why can't we always have desktop versions and only have mobile sites on request?

    • Odd. I find my self changing the user agent TO iPod on my desktop, just to get the comments to flow better.

      Dear slashdot,

      I want to control how wide my browser window is. Please stop using shitty css rules that you apparently tested in full-screen mode on 3 different monitor sizes. You're breaking the resizable window metaphor, and forcing my browser window to put up text that is WAY too wide for readability.

  • All of this is the predictable result of growing technology. Technology amplifies human intent. There are two great forces in the world. The first being the human desire to own, control, manipulate and squeeze to benefit me or us (focused self interest.) The other being to human need to create, advance, promote the greater good for all, collaborate and serve to benefit all. These are not intrinsically right or wrong, just different. Its when technology has amplified these ambitions in humanity to world shaking heights that we find ourselves at odds.

    We must allow for artists to create new visions of what is possible closed or open. These creations however must sit inside of a world designed to serve all for the benefit of all. The greater good must dominate the worlds infrastructure. It is only in a context that serves all, that the more limited context of single self expression can flourish without destroying the very people for whom the creation should be serving. We need to make this a clear and public conversation, such that new creators can fully understand the repercussions of their choices and the ultimate value of their inventions. By making the total environment clear, and seeing how the many parts work inside the larger system, we can allow new players to choose positions that will server precise who they choose to serve.

  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @05:00PM (#38558636)

    about what's going to happen when 3D printing and bioscale assemblers hit the mainstream. Right now we're having trouble because the [MP/RI]AA, who represent comparatively tiny industries, are pushing to destroy open systems. Imagine what happens when the Monsanto's and Walmarts of the world jump on the bandwagon because consumers stop consuming and start manufacturing on their own.

    I imagine that if we win that battle an era of unparalleled advancement, freedom, and opportunity for humanity lies on the other side; however, the powers that be will not go quietly, and there will likely be an unprecedented era of repression that will only be overcome with a great deal of trouble and not a little bloodshed.

    The only way I can imagine it breaking our way without said bloodshed is if we plan it such that it all happens at once everywhere from as many places as possible, using darknets, ad-hoc mesh networks, and other ways to ensure freedom of information and clever replication schemes to make sure you, me, and everyone we know gets in on the quantum leap in capability immediately instead of the usual diffusion model that has been constant in human history. That is, we can't afford to wait the 20 years for everyone to get a computer and online to get everyone's hands on 3D printers; and that means we have to build dead-simple interfaces into those technologies from the outset to cut the learning curve to zero.

    We can't give the powers that be time to react. We can't give them the chance to divide, deflect, and defeat the change.

  • Without generic PCs I doubt Linux would survive. And without Linux you lose android. Without android the demand for generic PCs increases.

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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